‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a Scottish architect, designer and artist whose work is synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement…’
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in Townhead in Glasgow in 1868. After qualifying as an architect, Charles worked with the local firm, Honeyman & Keppie. It was then he started to make his mark on the city of Glasgow.
Although in relative terms, Mackintosh’s career was pretty short, it’s had a lasting impact on Scotland. Glasgow was and still is, the epicentre of his work. In addition to designing, the architect was also a prolific painter. In Europe, he was more famous as a furniture and interior designer than an architect.
2018 marked the 150th anniversary of the architect’s birth. In honour of my fellow Scot, this is a quick guide to some of the amazing Charles Rennie Mackintosh sites in Glasgow and beyond…
House for An Art Lover
This is a relatively new building and was constructed between 1989 and 1996. The original design, by Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret MacDonald, was completed in 1901. HfANL sits within the confines of Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, on the city’s Southside.
The design was initially drafted for submission to a German architectural competition. It was disqualified for being late and unfinished but received recognition for its unique elements.
The House features a café, art galleries, studios, event space, heritage centre, shop and, of course, the designs of Rennie Mackintosh. The architect’s vision can be seen both inside and out. The unique characteristics of his work are visible in the building, as well as the fixtures and fittings.
The house was originally designed as a country retreat but now exists to support interest in architecture and the arts.
The shop and café are open each day between 10am-5pm. However, as the venue is also used for private functions and exhibitions, opening dates and times for other areas vary. You can check listings HERE.
Willow Tea Rooms
The iconic tea rooms sit on Sauchiehall Street in the centre of Glasgow and have done since 1903. They were designed for Miss Kate Cranston, and Rennie Mac and his wife, Margaret, were commissioned to design the interior for 4 tea rooms that were owned by the client.
The Sauchiehall Street location is by far the most famous and this, and a second location on nearby Buchanan Street is still operational.
Both sites are fantastic and encompass all the unique designs that Rennie Mackintosh is so famous for. The elongated chair backs and the use of his quirky floral design ‘the Glasgow Rose’ can be seen everywhere.
If you’re looking for afternoon tea in Glasgow, Willow Tea Rooms are a must. If visiting the Sauchiehall St. site, the tea rooms sit on the first floor, directly above Watt Brothers store.
Glasgow School of Art
This is arguably the most famous of all Mackintosh’s works and is widely considered to be his masterpiece. Taking up residence on Renfrew Street, the school is not only famous for its Art Nouveau architecture, but also as a European leader for the study of creative design.
Heartbreakingly, the A-listed school building was badly damaged by a massive fire in 2014, which was thought to have been started by a can of expanding foam used by students while preparing for their final exams.
In 2018, the building was devastated by fire once again, just months before it was due to be reopened. Fire Fighters, who rushed to the scene of the blaze, were widely credited for their complete dedication to saving as much of the building and its contents as possible. In Glasgow city centre, there’s a bronze statue of a fire-fighter and I vividly recall it being covered in flowers following the blaze.
These were laid by grateful residents as a sign of their respect and thanks to those who were faced with the challenge of extinguishing the flames.
Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery
The Hunterian is part of the University of Glasgow and is Scotland’s oldest museum. The main Hunterian Art Gallery displays the majority of the watercolours produced by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The gallery also has a number of works by other artists, such as Whistler.
The Macintosh House is a separate building, which was previously demolished to make room for Uni expansions in the 1960s. The original property was not designed by CRM, but was his home for a period of time. The property features all the reassembled features of the home as it was when Mackintosh was resident. This includes all the furniture and original fixtures.
Details on opening dated and times can be found on Glasgow University’s website.
The lighthouse, which stands on Mitchell Street, was designed by CRM when he was employed by Honeyman and Keppie. These days, it’s home to Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design. It was opened in 1999 to coincide with Glasgow’s status as UK City of Architecture and Design.
The Lighthouse, which previously housed the offices of the Glasgow Herald newspaper, is open to the public. One of the biggest attractions of the site is that it offers a fantastic view across the city skyline. The views can be seen from the aptly named Mackintosh Tower.
The ‘Mack’ Centre within the building has a permanent exhibition of the architect’s life and works. Further information on the attraction can be found on The Lighthouse website.
Kevingrove Art Gallery and Museum
This stunning red sandstone building is the most visited free museum in Scotland. The museum owns the largest collection of the so-called ‘Glasgow Style Movement’. This includes significant contributions by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The items on show include furniture, artwork and design elements.
Aside from its links with Mackintosh, Kelvingrove, has a total of 22 galleries displaying works of art from across the world. It’s a really fantastic day out in itself and admission is free.
Kelvingrove is located on Argyll Street and has more than 8,000 objects on show. For further information, check out their website.
The Hill House, Helensburgh
This is the only attraction not in Glasgow, but rather in the Dunbartonshire region. Hill House, which was built in the West coast town of Helensburgh, bears inclusion as it’s one of the most famous works.
The house was a private commission for Charles and Margaret Mackintosh. It was built for a prominent publisher of the time, Walter Blackie. The building was constructed between 1901 and 1904 in typical Macintosh style.
These days, the house is run by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public. The couple designed every aspect of the property, both inside and out. If you can spare time to drive around 32 miles from Glasgow, you won’t be disappointed.
Scotland Street School Museum
The school is based in the area of Tradeston in Glasgow and sits on Scotland Street. Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1903 and 1906, the old school building is now a museum.
The museum focuses on education in Scotland over the past 100 years. Although the interior has tell-tale signs of Mackintosh’s work, the museum is not dedicated to the architect. However, it’s well worth a visit. The building has all the hallmarks of the art nouveau style that’s so closely associated with its designer.
Scotland Street School Museum is free of charge and opening times and dates can be found HERE.
This building is located on Parsons Street in the Townhead area of Glasgow; the very street the designer was born. This is one of the architect’s earlier works, while he employed by Honeyman and Keppie. It’s constructed from red sandstone and is an A-listed building. It’s not open to the public as it houses the social work department of the local authority.
What are your favourite Charles Rennie Mackintosh sites in Scotland?